Backpacking Minimalist: How to Travel with Less (Minimalist Travel)
Here’s the truth: You do not need a lot of things.
There, I said it! The minimalist movement has been going on for years and you probably see it a lot on the internet where people start selling their stuff and fitting all their life in a backpack and, to be honest, it is a bold move because it does take a lot of emotional bravery to get rid of things you think matters to you.
When I was living in Helsinki, Finland and living a good life as a professional chef, I didn’t really own a lot of things… or so I thought. I thought I was living a rather minimalistic lifestyle back then and truthfully, comparing myself to my friends, I did own much less but it was still a lot of things! In fact, I owned so much that our nearby charity store saw me almost every day as I was donating so much stuff! So much that when I decided to live out of a suitcase and travel the world, I had the hardest time to downsize to a 15kg bag.
Minimalist travel is not really all about owning less but also the mentality of realizing the difference between wanting things to needing things. I have to be honest and say that it is not easy and it takes a lot of realization to know what do you really need in order to live your life on a daily basis.
Backpacking minimalist style is surely not for everyone nor is living with all the basic things in life.
I personally believe that a minimalistic view in life has given me the self-satisfaction and the ease to travel only with the necessary things I need both in life and as a traveling woman. I realized that carrying less stuff with me lightens not only a load of my pack but also my inner conscious is free from worry. I am contented and confident because I know that I have everything I need with me, nothing more, nothing less.
That said, my style may not be the same as yours, but it doesn’t mean you can’t pick up a thing or two ideas in this post. My list is very basic. Thus you’ll have an overall idea of what you might need on the road! Just remember that if you’re backpacking, it is vital you think through what you put in your pack. The hardest thing I did before was to throw away or pay for shipping to send off some of the stuff I didn’t end up using. Therefore, always think through if you need that cute jumper or not.
On a crazy note, I once traveled around Europe and Asia for three months with a 35L backpack! I covered two seasons (winter and extreme heat), and I had everything I needed in that backpack including a sleeping bag, a DSLR, and a cute pair of dresses. Looking back, that was extreme minimalism, and I would certainly do it again.
Here’s my backpacking minimalist packing list for those who want to start their journey with less stuff!
Table of Contents
- 1 Backpacking Minimalist: How to Travel with Less (Minimalist Travel)
- 2 Minimalist travel packing: Why do I need these stuff?
- 3 Are you on Pinterest? Pin these for later read!
Backpacking Minimalist: How to Travel with Less (Minimalist Travel)
Minimalist packing list overview and checklist
Here’s a backpacking minimalist packing list where I detail everything in bullet points before we proceed on why you need each item. The idea here is to pack enough for a week and not more but can be less. If you’re on a budget and you’re staying mostly in hostels, you can always wash your clothes on the sink if you’re starting to run out of clothes! If you want a printable checklist, you can click here!
The most important thing YOU MUST NOT FORGET:
Remember this, you can leave without your suitcase and anything that is inside it but never, ever, ever leave without these things!
- Cash and credit or bank cards
- Travel insurance
The uncategorized essentials:
- A good backpack or luggage – read our review here
- Packing Cubes – read our review here
- A luggage padlock – read our review here
- A shoe bag
- A microfiber quick dry towel – read our review here
- A reusable water bottle – read our review here
- Lunch/container box (to avoid plastics when you take home some food!)
- Stainless steel straw
- A foldable day bag/tote
- 3x basic shirt
- 2x sleeveless tank top
- 2x sports grade shirt/top
- 1x long sleeve shirt
- 1x fleece jacket
- 1x leggings
- 1x warm pants (jeans, etc.)
- 1x gym/yoga pants
- 2x shorts
- 1x black heavy grade stockings
- 1x compressable warm down jacket and 1x rain jacket with windproof protection
- 7 pair of undies
- 3 pairs of socks
- 1x gym bra
- 2x normal bra
- 1x sarong
- Optional: your favorite accessories
- 1 pair of flipflops
- 1 pair of comfortable and durable trainers – read our review here
- 1 pair of nice shoes (could be anything!)
- A toiletry bag – read our review here
- Your favorite facial wash
- Face, body, and hair oil (I like argan or coconut oil)
- All-in-one liquid soap
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Travel size razor
- Eyebrow tweezer
- Menstrual cup
- Q tips
- Travel size perfume of your choice
- iPhone 6 (or any smartphone!) + charger
- Laptop + charger
- Travel adaptor – read our review here
- Camera + lenses + charger – read our review here
- Tech bag organizer
- Camera and laptop travel bag – read our review here
- Pain killer
- Disinfection wipes/alcohol
- Imodium tablets (for diarrhea)
- Electrolyte powder
- Vitamin C tablets
- Motion sickness medication
- A good mosquito repellent
- Tiger balm (awesome for mosquito bites)
- Melatonin (to get some sleep in planes and to get used to a new time zone fast)
- Optional: Malaria pills (check your destination if it is a malaria zone)
Minimalist travel packing: Why do I need these stuff?
The important things to bring
Cash and credit or bank cards
It is important that you take care that you have money with you all the time in either the form of cash or bank cards. You can even put small cash in different parts of your bags, clothing, or even shoes to make sure that whatever scenario that may happen, you’ll always be able to get by till you find some solution to your problem.
Need I say more? It is good to have this in order to travel.
Not only you get health insurance if there’s an accident but if ever you do lose your luggage or it got stolen, you can get some compensation back from the travel insurance depending on the package you get. Nevertheless, I can’t stress enough how important it is to travel with one!
Basic things you can bring with you:
How to travel with less? Bring a backpack big enough for a week’s worth of belongings in order to live! Having a good backpack is extremely crucial therefore you do need to take the time to find the right one for you! Backpacks can be uncomfortable if they are not of good quality and are not designed for your body type (i.e I’m a woman, therefore, I should choose a pack designed for a woman, etc.).
I’ve owned a 35L backpack from a random brand before and even though I survived three months with it, I had so much back pain after a few hours of carrying it and this is why I am recommending Osprey Farpoint 40 or 55 as they have two different sizes suitable for either gender. Also, it makes an amazing minimalist carry on as the backpack passes all airline onboard bag size!
Do you need more options? Read our carry on backpack buying guide:
Since this post was published a couple of years ago, this also means my traveling style has evolved since then and I totally recommend going for the backpacks if that’s what your heart desire! That said, I had to make a tough choice last year if I will go for a backpack for this long-term travel trip or should I get luggage – I got the latter.
This does not mean my backpacking days are over, I could have still gone for the backpack on this trip but because the gears I use in order to run this blog is already a staggering 5kg on their own (laptop, two cameras, and the shenanigans that go with them) and I will be based mostly here in Asia long-term, I just thought that it would be easier to take the luggage instead.
Also, if you’re not familiar with the carry-on rules with the budget airlines in Asia, most of them only allow 7kgs of total baggage weight (regardless of how many bags you have)! If I would have gone for the carry-on backpack, I’ll be left with 2kgs of space for my other belongings. I know I could check-in the backpack, too, but the idea didn’t really sound favorable at the time I was deciding so I’m stuck with my bright pink American Tourister medium sized luggage for a long time.
I’m truly fine with it, I actually like it a lot since you can’t fill it up too much and I think it is cute. I’ll most likely change back to Osprey at one point when I start my route around lesser-known countries and places where roads are not the best for rolling luggage and accessible easier by foot.
I highly recommend getting packing cubes if you go on the backpack route! Not only it saves space but it keeps your belongings organize and neat. I can’t travel without my packing cubes because it gives my luggage a better look inside and if I want to find something, I’ll find it even in the dark. So, if you like to be neat and organize – get packing cube! If you’re not, still get packing cubes.
If you’re interested, we have written a list of the best packing cubes in the market:
If you’re traveling on a budget like me and ends up in hostel dormitories because you can’t afford a nice hotel room then you’ll need a padlock because not all hostels provide one for the lockers. Also, it doubles up as extra protection for your backpack if you take it as a carry-on inside airplanes. No one can touch your precious belongings!
To keep your belongings safe, we have listed some of the best padlocks on the market:
Most people use plastic to put their dirty shoes when they shove it in their backpack or luggage and that is totally fine if you are going to reuse it and dispose correctly (I meant the plastic bag, not your shoes!), but I’m personally on the road of going plastic free and the idea of using something I’ll eventually throw away to be part of one of the biggest problems on earth doesn’t sound so eco-friendly. This is why I bought a couple of shoe bags to keep my clean belongings away from my dirty shoes and I haven’t shoved one pair of shoe in a plastic bag ever again.
Of course, this is totally optional and absolutely personal, you don’t need to get it if you don’t need it since this is minimalist travel packing list after all!
Again, not all hostels provide towels and most of them even charge for it. You do not need to bring one but I highly suggest that you do because, well, you never know if the hostel will have one for you! There are many lightweight travel towels nowadays that packs like a handkerchief so it really won’t take so much space either.
There are tons of good microfibre travel towel out there and here’s a detailed list of some of the best ones:
This is not going to be another lecture about plastic but I’m just going to say how having one is a lifesaver! I use mine on a daily basis and I bring it with me everywhere. Not only it keeps my plastic use down but I can always refill it at the hostel, refilling centers, restaurants, coffee shops, and etc. which saves a lot of money. I’m currently in Asia and water cost almost next to nothing but in some places they do and it may be only less than a euro per bottle but if I will drink 3.5L of water a day, the cost will add up eventually. Plus, I contribute to plastic waste. Not a lecture, just saying!
If you want to buy one for yourself, we have a list of the top and eco-friendly bottles out there:
You don’t really need to buy these. Just take one spoon, one fork, and maybe a knife from your Mom’s cabinet and you’re golden. She probably won’t even notice either! I do have a travel size cutlery set with me which I bought in Malaysia and you’re probably wondering, why do you need it? You really don’t. However, if you’re like me who likes to eat street food and enjoys eating in general then you probably know that a lot of these cheap places will give you plastic cutleries and for that reason, I have one set of cutleries with me. Contribute to the good cause y’all! Again, not a lecture.
I won’t write a long text on this one because again, you might not need this but for the same reason I wrote under “cutleries”, you might want to bring one if you like take-outs.
Read the two points above. For reason, one thing I’ve noticed here in Asia is the fact that they love using plastic in general and straws are one of the verdicts.
There are now tons of foldable but durable bags out there which you can pack small if you’re not going to use it. I always have one somewhere in my backpack or luggage which, in my surprise, has been used a lot more than I think I will!
For many years now I’ve been using an IKEA foldable tote bag which folds to the size smaller than my iPhone but can fill up to almost 5L. I use it as my grocery bag, day bag, or even a beach bag. It is so versatile and durable and has tons of purposes! And another plus thing about it is that you get to lessen your plastic use!
Ultra minimalist travel wardrobe
You simply can never go wrong with plain and basic shirts! They are just simply the best things to have in your minimalist travel pack as they go with everything.
Good for hot days and as well for layering underneath when it starts to get cold!
Perfect for long walks, hikes, and going to the gym as they dry quickly and often have this type of material that lets your skin breath when it gets too hot. Nowadays they sell gym shirts that are flowy and pretty so they don’t shout “I’m heading to the gym!” so you can wear them as outwear, too.
If it starts to be cold, it is good to have one nice long sleeve shirt to keep you warm and are perfect for layering or for the plane.
I don’t know if it is just because I have lived in Finland for so long that a fleece jacket is a staple in my wardrobe or it just because I’m too afraid of getting cold. Either way, it is good to have a good fleece jacket for when it gets cold and as well to wear in the plane.
Perfect for lounging around, general use, or whenever you feel like it is a bit cold that you need something that is not too warm but breathable.
You need to have at least one pair of nice pants or jeans for when it gets cold or to use when traveling.
Perfect for hiking, long walks, and for its own purpose – going to the gym or yoga!
Good for many purposes and I use mine for sleeping and for daily use. I have two kinds, one high waist shorts that go will all the tops I have and one sports shorts which I can use for any situation.
I always have one stocking on hand because it is good for layering and styling. If the weather gets a bit cold and you want to wear a dress, pull up your black leggings and you’re good to go or even style it with high waist shorts and a nice t-shirt for a bit casual wear during spring or autumn in a bit colder destinations.
This is also handy when it gets really cold, by that I meant minus degrees cold, and it is good to layer it underneath your pants for extra heat in cold winter days!
You shouldn’t let the weather to hinder you from traveling to places and having a good lightweight down jacket and a windproof and waterproof outer shell does not exactly take so much space and won’t weight more than 300g (usually). Plus, they double up as a pillow when you need one!
You can bring 3 different types of socks for various demands. I always have one ankle cotton socks, one quick dry socks, and one ticker high ankle socks. This way, you can always have one when you need one!
Good for hikes, going to the gym or when you feel like you need them to have a little bit of freedom.
Absolutely mandatory! Sarongs are multi-purpose and I’ve used mine as a beach towel, beach coverup, scarf, and many more. Plus, they aren’t so expensive nor heavy so you should be fine having one.
I personally don’t wear nor bring any but if there are some accessories you like to have, why not bring them!
Good for general walking around and when you’re in hostels.
Perfect for walking, hiking, and going to the gym.
Here’s our list of the best travel shoes:
It is good to have one nice shoe which you can use if you plan to go to a bit nicer and posh places. I have a nice looking slipper that goes with everything I own.
A must for the organizing freaks like me. I wrote an extensive guide about toiletry bags, read it here.
Finding it hard to choose which toiletry bag to use? Here’s our buying guide list:
I personally use BodyShop facial wash and I think it is good enough to clean away all the gunk from the pollution I get her ein Asia.
I use Dr. Bonner’s liquid soap with I use as a body wash which you can also use as laundry soap.
I use LUSH shampoo bar. It is handy because some of their bars are 2-in-1 shampoo plus conditioner and each small piece is about 100 washes so it goes a long way for its price!
I still have a separate moisturizer for my skin and lotion for my body as I mentioned above, I use luggage hence I have space (and luxury) to bring a normal bottle with me. I use argan oil for my hair as a conditioner, BodyShop moisturizer, and a random lotion from Thailand which I picked up while I was living in Chiang Mai.
That said, I’m trying to get rid of all the plastic in my life and in order to do that I have to think a bit more with my purchases so I think that once I finish my bottles, I’m going to settle back to natural oils which I can use all over my body (which is argan in my case).
Sunscreen is very important guys! The UV light is damaging to our skin and can cause cancer in the future. I use BodyShop sunscreen moisturizer and the lotion I mentioned above is SPF +20 so all in one!
Give your Tinder date a favor and get on board with dental hygiene care. Just kidding! I’m sure everyone brushes their teeth (I hope).
For sweaty days and sweaty nights!
I like to shave but if you don’t, that’s okay!
Eyebrows on fleek my girl!
Ditch napkins and tampons because this is the menstrual cup era where us girls value Mother Nature more than ever! Plus, it is the best thing that ever happened to me.
I like clean ears! Plus it is multi-purpose, you can use it to clean your belly button, too! Heh.
I have a full-size Calvin Klein Eternity Summer edition. I like to smell good and I have a check in luggage!
I personally own these: eyebrow pencil, a concealer, cheek and lip tint, a mascara, an eyelash curler, and red lipstick. These have been my makeup staple since forever and yes, I do wear them every day and that’s because I feel awesome whenever I have some on. But of course, you can bring as little or more as you desire!
In order to stay connected with your family and friends, you’ll need a phone. I personally abuse my iPhone mainly for Google Maps otherwise I’d be losing so much time finding my way around town without it especially if I’m in one destination for such a short time. I always buy a local sim card wherever I go in order to stay connected plus I can work anywhere I want.
I’m a travel blogger, therefore, this laptop I’m using right now (MacBook Pro) is where I can access and do 100% of my workload. I can’t live without it!
I always have two travel adaptor both with the same exact purpose only because I’m paranoid I’ll lose one and won’t be able to charge my gadgets. It is very important to travel with at least one because you never know what kind of socket each destination will have!
There are also different adaptors made for different purposes, here’s our buying guide list:
I love hiking and going to places where it will take me the whole day without access to any sort of electricity and having a fully charged power bank in my bag always saves me the trouble of looking for a place where I can charge my phone. As I mentioned above, I use my phone mainly for Google Maps so without it, I won’t find my way back home!
Again, as a travel blogger, having a good camera to take amazing photographs to share in my social media channels is quite essential but of course, you can always get by with your phone!
If you’re looking for other cameras, here’s our handy detailed buying guide list:
- Best Travel Camera: Best Camera for Travel Photography!
- The Best Camera For Travel Bloggers: Canon PowerShot G7x
I’ve been wanting to ditch my goby but I’ve noticed how useful it has been to me as a solo traveler!
For one great reason, to keep your cables and other techs organized!
I have one which I bought from Amazon which has been used as my day bag most of the time. Like I mentioned above, I now use a suitcase which I can check-in and I use this bag to keep my gadgets organized and safe during transport. The best thing about is that I have all of my important things in it and I bring it everywhere I go.
If you’re on a hunt for a good camera bag, here’s our list (we love making them, you probably noticed!):
I do a lot of photo editing thus I have one but you can certainly get by without one!
For adventure junkies, this is perhaps essential! I sold my GoPro because it was no use for me but is considering to buy one again when I get a budget!
For the same reason as having a mouse, I use my Wacom to create beautiful graphics for my website.
Good if you are in a park or beach chilling, it is nice to have one just to set a mood. That said, you don’t really need it at all!
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